My house for two is starting to look like Grand Central Station.
In the course of 24 hours it has accommodated two adults, three senior citizens and two dogs, and I’m trying to thwart whatever builds in me when I have to give away the time I use in the morning to get ready for work – one of the few hours of time I have to myself.
Part of the reason the house better represents a bustling train station is because of mental health. Not mine. Not anyone in the house. But it’s a factor that has affected my extended family for years.
I’ve only divulged to two people the root of the hustle and bustle in my house but it brings up a bigger issue: Mental health.
It’s something that we’ve been reluctant to discuss in our society, up until recently. A microcosm: In the final months of my time covering pro and college hockey in New England, three NHL players committed suicide, in part due to mental health issues. While the NHL Players Association offers “a substance abuse and behaviorial health” program, it wasn’t until the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak that a community (and hockey is a community) was forced not only to acknowledge the issue but to consider it frankly and introspectively. Three men died in the course of a summer. At the time, I posted something on my belated work blog that said something along the lines of, “maybe this will force us to evaluate both the topic of mental health and our own attitudes toward a topic that comes with a stigma.”
I even reconsidered my own stance on mental health – bipolar disorder runs in my family (hey, you wonder why I’m so upbeat all the time – kidding, kidding). You grow up understanding that something is not right, why a parent and a grandparent rarely speak – a byproduct of a violent attack years and years ago that was brought on by a manic-depressive rage – or why a sibling is taking medication and forever going to doctors and isn’t taking the same honors and advanced placement classes that you overachieved in “because he doesn’t have the same direction that you have.”
But you don’t talk about it with others, in a public sense. Still, after finding out from a former supervisor of mine about his family’s struggles with mental health issues, and discussing it with the parent of a friend of mine in a stretch of weeks, I realized something: A) this isn’t an isolated problem and B) there are people out there who need to talk about this with someone. Sometimes, you are the best support group because you listened.
Right now, I have a whole household whom I can listen to – because I know they are in a safe place.
If you’re looking for more information on mental health awareness or resources, there’s a program in Canada called Mindcheck.ca that’s geared towards teenagers and young adults with mental health issues, and the Virginia-based National Alliance on Mental Illness provides a broader view on advocacy, treatment and research.
Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).